We went deep with Amplitude Studio’s Dungeon of the Endless.
After crash landing on what can only be described as a demonic alien robot hell-planet, your crew of prisoners and their law-abiding fellow intergalactic commuters must team up to make it to the roof and make your escape.
The only way off this disgusting rock is by use of your ship’s power source, The Crystal.
Who will you recruit for this suicide mission?
Piecing together the right team is less about who can kick the most butt and more about your personal preference.
You will need to protect The Crystal and fight your way through multiple floors by setting up defenses, killing critters, grabbing that precious gem, and running for the elevator. But first, you’ll want to open up every door and clear out the floor to find any bonus gear or resources, as well as checking for NPC’s.
Once you start this run, a swarm of enemies will come out of the woodwork and they’ll increase in numbers and strength until they overrun you. Up until this point, the monsters and creatures emerge in much smaller numbers- generally triggered by entering a new room.
Each of the heroes has a biography available that can be found through a Heroes/Systems tab and gives you a hint of background story.
You can also level up a character, heal them, dismiss them from your party, or give them some rest. But all of that will cost you some Food, Science, or Industry – these are the resources that will be gradually acquired and quickly spent, creating that endless loop of gathering and building.
There are other heroes found on various floors, and they can be recruited for Food. This is something you’ll want to invest in as there’s always the chance you will lose one of your heroes, making it impossible to carry on, or ending your run with a swift game over.
Dungeon of the Endless is a game of complex character buffs that can be furthered upon by a research device that you can use to unlock new tech. On my first run, I researched the Dust Field gen 1, giving an extra defense buff to characters together in the same room.
I had already chosen a robot called Rosetta Q as one of my heroes, and it comes with a built-in buff that increases attack and defense for a party that stays together, so this module was a good boost to an already bolstered team.
The research itself is timed, not in seconds and minutes, but rather “rooms”, meaning how many rooms you will pass through before the research has finished. Make use of this device, it will not only unlock valuable pieces of weaponry for your arsenal, but also machinery that will produce additional resources for you with each door you open.
As you progress, you have to be mindful of how much power is being consumed. Each room can have the power switched on or off, with power being needed if you plan on building something in that particular room. It seems like the concept is to find the quickest path to carry your Crystal, then set up as many modules as you can afford to assist you. Once you start your run for the elevator and the swarms begin, they come from any rooms you have left unpowered, so try to keep them away from your chosen route.
I had to keep reminding myself to head back to the researcher often, to make sure I had the biggest and most powerful weapons and Debuff modules like Tear Gas, Smoking Guns, Claymore Mines, Tesla Traps, and so on. It was pretty important to have the heaviest firepower in bottleneck areas in order to slow down and weaken the horde.
Some of the modules have a level system as well, meaning you can get a more powerful version of it through some research. For example, the Smoking Gun has more efficient versions available for research called Smoking Gun 2, 3 etc.
It hasn’t been clear so far as to why you would really want to split up the heroes, as they work best when kept together, as long as you are keeping an eye out for any alerts that monster baddies are making their way towards your Crystal or attacking your equipment. There are some strange modules that are built into the floor which apparently can be used if certain characters remain behind in that room. Since you can only group the entire squad together, or send them individually, it makes it hard for the larger teams to pair up.
Some of the modules create a buff that will affect your party no matter where they are, where as others will only activate the increased defence or attack stats when in that particular room that they are installed in.
Stranger Things, is that you?
The soundtrack for Dungeon of the Endless is almost perfect and gave me some real Stranger Things vibes. A heavy retro-synth-arcade style.
While the audio assets are great, occasionally it seems like there was no good way to get it to finish, resulting in a sudden stop to the backing track with barely any ambient noise. This is something that isn’t too disappointing given just how perfect the retro synth soundtrack is for pretty much the rest of the game.
The story isn’t all that thrilling though, and it’s pretty unfortunate with how good the bones of this game are. Apart from a few pieces of artwork and small animated scenes with not much going on, the only other snippets of the storyline are the very tiny chunks of dialogue the heroes throw out at random.
Saying it gets boring might be too harsh, but the process gets pretty repetitive and dull, despite the increased excitement of the later levels.
You do progress your hero’s rank and swap out your gear for more powerful tech along the way, but it doesn’t carry a sense of satisfaction like that of a typical tower defense game. The nomadic nature of the game makes little sense when you are setting up equipment just to make it to the next floor.
There are quite a few heroes that you can choose from, plus you get to recruit a handful along the way, but it’s got that real dungeon-crawler element that tries to create replay-ability by making it possible to experience what all the characters can do, only by playing the game multiple times. With the unsatisfying feeling that the average run through leaves, it doesn’t seem like there is a whole lot of appeal in playing through from scratch a dozen or so times just to try out some of the possible combinations.
It’s really a 50/50 split for me at this point because I don’t feel like this is a bad game by any means. In fact, it’s got a lot of charm that makes me want to play, but I do feel like the areas that are lacking will make me want to switch over to one of my regular games prematurely. The disappointing areas could be remedied quite easily if the developers are open to some updates.
Firstly, fleshing out the story should be the number one priority. I could forgive the lacking and repetitive gameplay if I knew at the end of each floor was another slice of the story to draw me back into this futuristic alien hell. Showing some scenes where characters are communicating, and building some suspense would make this game feel like something incredibly different.
Or, if adding to the story wasn’t an option, perhaps making the levels feel different from each other could help. Each floor is just another similar looking labyrinth, but there are never any surprises. You know what to expect almost every time, apart from not knowing if there will be a merchant or a platform to build on.
Puzzles would be a great solution to this grindy feeling. If you had to send one hero to a room to move some tiles around or push some buttons, and sent the other character to a door that would be timed to open as the tile puzzle was solved, meaning you had to quickly switch between them to efficiently move through the dungeon… You get the drift. Something that makes the brain have to work.
Finish on a high note, Moose-balls.
The character design has had a lot of time and effort put in which is shown off by characters like Ayairi Whairydd the War Pug, who is exactly as the name suggests. If cute pixelated dogs who fight alien crime aren’t your thing, you can opt for some of the more vanilla characters like Opportunist Max O’Kane. There are a generous amount of heroes to choose from, with more unlocked by finishing the game, or recruiting them mid level and surviving with them for several floors.
Another aspect that Amplitude has done really well on is the level design, however it’s pretty limited. They did well to create some nice sound effects and implement them at times when the music would cut out and you would be left with an eery silence, broken only by the sound of leaking pipes dripping, mouse squeaking, or various other ambient cues that will immerse you in an alien universe.
There are a few parts that are a little unpolished however, leaving gaps where there is no audio at all, which may have been to create a sense of feeling alone and trapped, but it makes little sense when you have a party of four people crammed into a tiny room and there isn’t as much as the wind blowing.
For the trophy hunters out there, you won’t be disappointed with Dungeon of the Endless. It will take many runs on both difficulties, with varying crews to Platinum this one. There is even a trophy for opening 10,000 doors. Now given that most levels maybe have like 20-30 tops, that’s a lot of restarts. Or, they playing from start to finish without hitting the pause button once.
At the main menu there’s an Album option which displays pieces of artwork unlocked during your travels. This is another way to get a bit of extra information on the characters, monsters, and pretty much just a bunch of concept art for the game. It’s been stitched together in a way that makes it seem like one of the heroes is documenting the experience.
Even on the easy difficulty, this game is a tough nut to crack as you simply never know when you are going to stretch yourself that little bit too thin, or run into too many enemies before making your way to the elevator. Try as you might, if you don’t get lucky with your resources, you just may find that you won’t have enough firepower to hold back their attack. This is often the case once you get past the first six or so floors. The difficulty seems to increase exponentially, pushing you to breaking point. And oh, was I pushed.
My time within Dungeon of the Endless was fun, and I got to experience all the game has to offer, so I felt the ups and downs as intended and would definitely recommend it to fans of retro, pixel art crawlers, or players who aren’t all that seasoned when it comes to the dungeon-crawler genre. Those who have spent plenty of time playing games from this category may find it to miss the mark and not challenge them enough, but if you don’t want an extremely challenging introduction to the relentless world of procedurally generated death traps, this one is probably for you.
Scoring Amplitude’s Dungeon of the Endless 7.5/10